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Brainstorming Ways To Protect NYC From Real Storms 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-have-a-weather-control-device-for-sale dept.
SternisheFan writes with this excerpt from NBC News: "The killer storm that hit the East Coast last month and left the nation's largest city with a crippled transit system, widespread power outages and severe flooding has resurfaced the debate about how best to protect a city like New York against rising storm surges. In a 2011 report called 'Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan,' NYC's Department of City Planning listed restoring degraded natural waterfront areas, protecting wetlands and building seawalls as some of the strategies to increase the city's resilience to climate change and sea level rise. 'Hurricane Sandy is a wake-up call to all of us in this city and on Long Island,' Malcolm Bowman, professor of physical oceanography at State University of New York at Stony Brook, told NBC News' Richard Engel. 'That means designing and building storm-surge barriers like many cities in Europe already have.' Some of the projects showcased at Rising Currents include: Ways to make the surfaces of the city more absorptive (through porous sidewalks) and more able to deal with water, whether coming from the sea or sky; Parks and freshwater and saltwater wetlands in Lower Manhattan; Artificial islands or reefs (including ones made of recycled glass) to make the shoreline more absorptive and break the waves."
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Brainstorming Ways To Protect NYC From Real Storms

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  • The Best Way. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:41PM (#41944503)

    Climate Dome.

  • 1664 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rvw (755107) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:50PM (#41944581)

    This is where it went wrong - if it was still Dutch it would have been properly protected against flooding, and all those electricity lines would have been underground by now. It's absolutely unbelievable that a country that is so technologically advanced still has all those cables hanging in the air. And then those cardboard houses!

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:51PM (#41944583)

    The only idea that's sure to work is to move the city to a safer location. Or at least the parts of it most suseptible to flooding. That's what they had to do in New Orleans. Or, perhaps it's because we're talking about rich white guys now instead of poor black people that we should expend many billions fortifying and rebuilding those neighborhoods? Oh, and yes, this comment will probably be flamed into oblivion and modded every which way, but it does have the benefit of being the truth.

  • Climate Change? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mspohr (589790) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:54PM (#41944613)

    People could start taking climate change seriously and reduce CO2 emissions.

  • Re:1664 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:55PM (#41944627)
    Most of the power lines are underground, particularly in Manhattan, where power was out for much of the island for many days.
  • Not all that hard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:38PM (#41944923) Homepage

    Protecting Manhattan isn't that difficult. It's clear that the Con Ed station on 14th St needs to be raised; that's too important to be flooded out again. The subway system needs flood gates at several points. The London and Singapore systems have flood gates. The old Pennsylvania Railroad North Tunnels have flood gates, which Amtrak didn't maintain and were supposed to be fixed after 2001 as an anti-terrorism measure.

    Some of the subway stations need extra protection, especially South Ferry. They need strong emergency flood barriers. Sandbags didn't work because a big piece of wood (about 1' x 1' by 15') from a construction site crashed through them and ended up in the booking hall. They need steel barriers that are raised out of the ground when necessary. Extra pumping capacity with backup power is indicated, too.

    Those are no-brainers. After major hurricanes two years in a row, there's no question that those basic fixes are needed. Beyond that, it might be worthwhile to raise the ground level of the parks in the Battery Park area by a few meters. FDR Drive may need a flood wall south of the Brooklyn Bridge. Those are less urgent.

    Barrier islands like Fire Island and the Rockaways, and the Jersey shore, are too low to fix. Just make sure everybody evacuates in time. (About 140 people refused to evacuate Fire Island, and getting them off after the island had been cut in two by the storm risked the lives of emergency personnel. The first group of rescuers had to be rescued.) Require Florida-level hurricane protection in house construction. Require paid-up private insurance for anyone who wants to build in the flood zone. Put in hurricane-resistant solar panel powered street lights (a commercially available product), so there's some light no matter what happens. A strict "no tall trees near power lines" policy may be necessary in the coastal zone.

    New York State has a valuable resource - big rocks. Where roads and railroad tracks need to be protected against washouts, big rocks, too big for a storm to move (granite boulders the size of a SUV) should be used extensively.

    (Forget the "balloon tunnel plug" idea. Something like that was used at the Penn Station yards, and it burst when hit by something.)

  • by kenorland (2691677) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:44PM (#41944965)

    NYC is where it is mostly because of shipping, harbors, and the merchants that got rich on that. Those made it a favorable place to live despite the costs of coastal living. These days, that location makes little sense. There is still shipping, of course, but not much reason why our financial center should be there.

    So, leave it up to New Yorkers: as long as they want to pay and are able to pay for defending the city against the elements, let them. Once it doesn't make economic sense anymore, people will stop building there and people will move elsewhere. This has happened time and again to cities in human history, it's a natural process.

  • Re:my idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054) * on Saturday November 10, 2012 @05:07PM (#41945119)

    So much of the infrastructure in NYC (and the rest of the East Coast) is so ancient that it is a wonder it functions from day to day in perfect weather, let alone a storm.

    Where newer cities have buried virtually all electrical distribution, huge segments of it are hanging from polls, bridges, buildings, etc.
    The push to get this stuff buried [businessweek.com] in waterproof pipe and tunnels has largely gone un-heeded, due to the sheer volume of the work to be done.

    The local distribution systems are old, exposed, and vulnerable. Power lines run through trees, right-of-ways are unmaintained, and faults are fixed as fast as possible with little thought toward prevention.

    Residential systems are deemed not critical. But when they short out, they trip other systems off line. When storms hit wide areas it is precisely these so called "non critical" residential feeders that cause the most problems. Large high-voltage lines are designed to handle severe weather, and their breaks or failures are easy to spot, quick to fix. But thousands of downed power lines in neighborhoods take excessive manpower, and a long time to fix.

    I suspect that a cost-benefit analysis would not support a wholesale project to bury everything everywhere. After all, the humongous cost numbers of the lack of power are merely bean-counters adding up payroll numbers, speculating about lost business, and guessing.

    Still, if every neighborhood that needed a major repair had its power system immediately trenched and buried the most vulnerable segments would be taken care of. Its a lot harder to trench in power in a populated place than it is when building a new subdivision, but its far from impossible. The convoys of mutual-aid power company vehicles rushing into the teeth of Sandy that I passes while I was driving west out of the path are testimony to the fact that the power companies do have a plan. But its the wrong plan. Its still focused on tacking the patchwork quilt back together AFTER the storm. Those trucks should each be pulling a Ditch Witch in fine weather, BEFORE of the storm.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @05:54PM (#41945469)

    So where do you move a port besides next to the ocean?

    You don't move the port. You move the city. The port can stay where it is; Just run rail and road lines out to it. It's a lot easier to restore power and services to an area that's easily evacuated, has no residential housing, etc., and limited infrastructure.

  • Re:my idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrbester (200927) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:27PM (#41946127) Homepage

    It is ironic that a city originally called New Amsterdam doesn't have defences against the sea...

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